It’s like some of this is fun and games for the press. On Tuesday night, the “big three” broadcast networks used their flagship evening newscasts to erect walls between President Donald Trump and his Coronovirus Task Force, falsely treating the President’s “hope” to reopen the economy by Easter (April 12) as a red line. In other words, it was an attempt to sow dissent and further scare Americans.
This was despite the fact that, an hour beforehand, the President insisted he’d listen to public health experts before making any call.
Before getting into the misinformation, here is part of what Trump said at the task force’s daily briefing about returning to a semblance of normal life (click “expand”):
I want to assure Americans that we have a team of public health experts. You’ve gotten to know them as well as I know them; they’re great people. Incredible. Talented. They love our country. Also, economists and other professionals working to develop a sophisticated plan to reopen the economy as soon as the time is right — one based on the best science, the best modeling, and the best medical research there is anywhere on Earth.
Our great people have been — especially when it comes to our public health experts and officials — have been helping other countries, dealing with other countries, constant touch with other countries, helping them out, because many of them have never seen anything like what’s happening.
But our decision will be based on hard facts and data as to the opening. I’m also hopeful to have Americans working again by that Easter — that beautiful Easter day. But rest assured, every decision we make is grounded solely on the health, safety, and wellbeing of our citizens.
Now to the misinformation. NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt boasted in a tease that Trump was “contradicting top health officials and state governors” and at the top of the show, took aim at Trump for giving “Americans…mixed messages tonight at a time we can ill afford it.”
Holt then suggested that Trump was ignoring the health side of the crisis because he was “focused on boosting the economy” and “talking about ways to get back to business soon, putting him in a potential collision course with public health experts who say this is no time to lower our guard.”
Tossing to national correspondent Miguel Almaguer, Holt hyped that Almaguer would have “a reality check,” which included an implicit plea for Trump to implement nationwide lockdown since some states lack the power “to keep residents home, leading some to worry they could become the next epicenter for the virus.”
Correspondent Peter Alexander popped up later to take whacks at the President, hyping that the “proposed timeline goes against what his top health adviser told NBC News just days ago about how long the pandemic will last.”
Closing out his report, Alexander touted comments at Tuesday’s daily briefing from Dr. Tony Fauci saying any relaxing of social distancing guidelines would have to be “very flexible,” as if to suggest he’s at odds with the President.
ABC’s World News Tonight anchor David Muir fretted that “Trump's words going against what many of his own health experts have said” and knocked him for “conflicting messages” that “left medical experts, members of his own [sic], to answer questions.”
Even though the President’s relevant remarks started at 5:44 p.m. Eastern, Muir and weekend anchor Tom Llamas said at 6:38 p.m. Eastern that they “just came in” and were made “moments ago” in which Trump made clear his decisions would be led by health officials like Dr. Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx.
It was more of the same from the CBS Evening News. Host Norah O’Donnell lectured that Trump “want[ing] to reopen the country by Eastern Sunday” would be seen as “too soon and could risk a health care catastrophe.”
Despite playing part of the President’s remarks in question (plus clips from earlier on Fox News), White House correspondent Paula Reid didn’t change the narrative and stated that Trump’s claim about a new economic depression being worse than the virus itself was an “unsubstantiated claim.”
O’Donnell then brought on Johns Hopkins professor Dr. Tom Inglesby to repeatedly paint the President’s thinking as dangerous (even though, again, it was never a red line) (click “expand”):
O’DONNELL: The President said today he wants the country opened by Easter. That's 19 days from now. Is that a realistic goal?
INGLESBY: So, I think it's too soon to say whether --- where we'll be by Easter, but I think it's going to take at least until Easter to even begin to see the impact of the social distancing measures that have been put in place in the last week.
O’DONNELL: And we've heard the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, say that New York is going to reach its peak in two or three weeks. So this is far from over.
INGLESBY: Yeah, I do think we're really at the beginning of this epidemic…I'm quite worried that if we release social distancing measures soon, we going to have a rapid rise in cases.
O’DONNELL: We're not even two weeks into this, in terms of the social distancing, and already the discussion has become, "well, when can we end it?” Is that right way to look at this crisis?
INGLESBY: Well, I do understand that even with a week of these measures, there has been incredible economic hardship around the country, and I think it's too soon to say which measure we could let off when.'